Supreme Court Decision

Article excerpt

In a ruling that may have a far-reaching effect on the health care industry, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld a 1989 National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) determination that established "appropriate bargaining units" of hospital employees for collective bargaining purposes (American Hospital Association V. NLRB). (The NLRB is the Federal agency that sets rules for representation elections in most industries.)

The NLRB decision (which was to become effective in May 1989), with three exceptions, established eight bargaining units in acute care hospitals: registered nurses, physicians, other professional employees, medical technicians, skilled maintenance workers, clerical workers, guards, and other nonprofessional employees. (See Monthly Labor Review, July 1990, pp. 51-52.) The determination was the first industrywide bargaining unit ruling in the Federal agency's history.

The American Hospital Association challenged the 1989 NLRB determination and argued that the ruling violated the National Labor Relations Act requirement that NLRB bargaining unit decisions be made on a case-by-case basis ("in each case") rather than on an industrywide basis; would contribute to "undue proliferation" of bargaining units in the industry; and was arbitrary and capricious. …